When you think about the conservation efforts of the National Aquarium, the first thing that probably comes to mind is our work with endangered animals, particularly marine mammals and sea turtles. You may not realize that our conservation team also spends a lot of time restoring coastal habitats, and is even saving trees that are in danger of becoming endangered.
There is one particular species of tree that seems to be getting special attention these days, for good reason. The Atlantic white cedar trees are considered rare in Maryland, and conservation efforts are underway to restore this species and the valuable freshwater wetland habitat it creates.
Why are these evergreen trees rare? There are few species of trees that have been used to make everything from barrels, to water pipes, to railroad ties, and even gunpowder; historically, Atlantic white cedars were used for all this and more! Even pirates utilized Atlantic white cedar forests of New Jersey as a hiding place in the 1700s. Needless to say, a tree that produced strong, waterproof lumber was in high demand, and Atlantic white cedars were harvested heavily throughout their natural range along the East Coast, from Maine to Florida. Heavy cutting for these commercial uses has continued during this century.
Our conservation team saw the opportunity to help this cause and educate students along the way by adding Atlantic white cedar plantings to the Wetland Nursery Program.
Continue reading ‘Saving a special tree’
The Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) has seen many great volunteers come and go over the years, but one volunteer who has seen the program through since the very beginning is Mary Sidlowski. She is a mainstay at nearly every one of our conservation events, a source of inspiration and comic relief.
Mary began volunteering for the Aquarium in 1993 because she was looking for “a rewarding way to fill her time.” Since then she has become an integral part of many departments; she divides her time between working in Australia Wild Extremes, the rainforest, membership, education, the Marine Animal Rescue Program, and ACT!
“I was in ACT! before ACT! existed,” Mary says with a smile. She recalls a time when the Conservation Team’s only projects were beach clean-ups at Assateague Island, and she says “every year it has gotten better and better.” Now Mary loves to participate in wetland and dune restoration projects, and really enjoys planting the grasses – even if it means being covered in mud! “It’s very rewarding work, because you get to immediately see the results of what you’ve done,” she explains.
Continue reading ‘Volunteer Spotlight: Planting a milestone’
Did you know that planting a tree or two can help save our local waterways? The National Aquarium partners with the Naval Support Facility Indian Head and the Charles Country Master Gardeners on restoration events that are rebuilding coastal habitats of the Potomac River. The next events are being held October 21-25, and we need your help!
The goal if this project is to create a riparian buffer along the riverside. A riparian buffer is a natural biofilter that protects our waterways and prevents excess runoff from the surface pollution. In other words, planting a trees, grasses, and shrubs can be a big help in keeping our waters cleaner, and giving more animals a place to live. Ripairan buffers have played a significant role in soil conservation, improved water quality, healthy aquatic systems, and offer habitats for diverse wildlife .
Volunteers over 18 years of age and that are US citizens (due to base restrictions), are asked to join us for one or more field days from 9am-4pm on October 21-25, 2008. We can all actively do little things to help preserve our environment, no green thumb required! Click here to learn more about the event. To volunteer contact Charmaine Dahlenburg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-659-4274 by October 15.
This week at the Aquarium, plant-loving visitors can enjoy a flower called a blue flag. A member of the iris family, this flower is unusual for its beautiful blue color (it is not a natural color typically found in flowers).
Because the blue flag can tolerate sun to part sun and moist to wet soils, it can be found along fresh to moderately brackish tidal marshes, meadows, swamps, forest wetlands, and in the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Waterfront Park (an outdoor Aquarium exhibit that is free an open to the general public). The park is a great spot to relax in the bustling harbor, and has nearly 70 other species of native plants among the landscaping and 120,000 custom-made recycled pavers.
The Amazon River Forest exhibit is in full bloom this spring! In addition to seeing an amazing collection of animals, visitors to the Aquarium can also learn about beautiful plants and flowers that are found in various habitats.
One of the most recognizable flowers right now is the Aristolochia gigantea, or Dutchman’s pipe. These odd flowers are 6-8 inches across with a mottled maroon and white coloration. They are designed to attract flies by mimicking rotting flesh in scent and appearance (ew!). Flies that enter the hole at the center of the flower are trapped temporarily inside a chamber, where they inadvertently act as pollinators. Special hairs in the tube leading to the chamber allow the insects to enter, but make exiting much more difficult!